Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Place and space can be strange for immigrants (the strangers)

Written by: on May 15, 2015

spaceGill Valentine’s book Social Geographies: Space and Society is an insightful book. The author tackles a lofty subject as she seeks to examine how human relationships take shape and the elements that influence such a process. About her book, Valentine notes:

Social geography is an inherently ambiguous and eclectic field of research and writing. It is perhaps best summed up as ‘the study of social relations and the spatial structures that underpin those relations… Although this book is entitled Social Geographies, it makes no claims to occupy a discrete intellectual space which can be identified or sealed off from other traditional subdisciplinary areas such as cultural geography or political geography. Rather, the plural social geographies which emerge here are porous product-an expression of the many connections and interrelationships that exist between different fields of geographical inquiry. Indeed, they are perhaps more appropriately characterized by the subtitle: space and society.[1]

Reading Social geography comes at a time when I am interested in the ongoing immigration debate in the United States. Globally, the number of refugees and immigrants is increasing due to wars, droughts, terrorism, economic hardships and search for opportunity.  As an immigrant, I have vested desire to know how the current immigration regulations continue to impact and shape the space of both immigrant individuals and families. I have always been curious about the role of geographers play in the formation of immigration and citizenship policy. Perhaps, political geography doesn’t necessarily warrant geographers as was with the arbitrary demarcation of most of the boarders of nations in Africa by the colonial governments.

I know that there are a number of opinions on both sides of the immigration debate which I’ll not be able to discuss in this post, however I have always wondered about the loss of space and how it might affect the lives of immigrants. The search for space and belonging for immigrants is telling when for some of the undocumented immigrants the only path is through recruitment into the US military. But aren’t immigrants looking to recovery a sense of place, space, home and opportunity instead of a battlefield? About home, place and space Gill writes, “It is somewhere we feel we belong, and to which we return. Indeed, the home often becomes a symbol of the self.”[2]

Perhaps the positives might outweigh the negatives, yet even for the immigrants for whom joining the US military might have been a considerable option, they were dealt a political blow this week when “immigration hardliners prevailed in fight over Dreamers and the military.”[3] So where is home for the Dreamers and what does space look like for them? What does sustainability meaning for the Dreamers? As the Dreamers where bluntly reminded by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) who said, “each time an illegal alien takes an enlistment opportunity, an American or lawful immigrant loses an enlistment opportunity,” Brooks wrote. “The ratio is one-to-one. Period. That is the math.”[4] So where do they go from here? For now theirs is rejection and more confusion about space, opportunity and geography.


Here I am reminded of Mark C. Taylor who might be a source of inspirational escape since he does a masterful job in recounting a touching love affair not with a person but with a place that, paradoxically, cannot be easily localized in his book Recovering Place: Reflections on Stone Hill (Religion, Culture, and Public Life). I recommend his book as a good read. Mark also provides striking insights about the underlying issues that also impact place and space for anyone in the twenty first century. Taylor writes:

The problems facing us at the beginning of the twenty-first century are surprisingly similar to those of the early nineteenth century. As industrial capitalism has given way to financial capitalism, personal, social, political, and economic fragmentation has spread and deepened. Technologies that were supposed to connect and integrate are creating divisions within and among individuals and are deepening the opposition between humanity and the natural world. Globalization leads to a hyper-competitive environment in which any sense of the whole-be it personal, social, or natural-is lost. At this critical moment, perhaps change can come from refiguring for our time and place the insights of past writers, poets, artists, philosophers, and theologians. If this effort is to be effective, it cannot remain disinterested, analytical and critical but must be committed to developing creative and constructive strategies for dealing with our most urgent problems. We need new maps to help us navigate territories that will become even more perilous in the future. This work is intended to create the possibility of being different by seeing otherwise.[5] Any thoughts?



[1] Gill Valentine, Social Geographies: Space & Society, (Harlow, England: Pearson Education Ltd, 2001), 1.

[2] Ibid., 73.

[3] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/14/dreamers-military_n_7283676.html

[4] Ibid.,

[5] Mark, C Taylor. Recovering Place: Reflections on Stone Hill. (New York: New York, Columbia University Press, 2014), 4.

About the Author

Michael Badriaki

12 responses to “Place and space can be strange for immigrants (the strangers)”

  1. rhbaker275 says:

    I like your focus on mitigation and the impact on space and society. It is interesting that you refer to the “loss of space and how it might affect the lives of immigrants.” As you note, there are many factors to consider in the national conversation on immigration. Although there is no specific geographic scale on immigration, the conversation does occur throughout the book especially in the discussion on citizenship. Valentine refers to citizenship involving civil, political and social rights; space for these rights creates issues with emigration and a disparate who advocate for and against the immigrant.

    Our concerns on this subject are well founded. Valentine notes that although “the language of citizenship implies inclusion and universality, it is also an exclusionary practice” (7058). In fact, she advocates that no nation grants “equal access to all the rights and resources” to all of its citizenry. The failure to cultivate and incorporate space for the voice of the migrant and immigrant, according to Valentine leads to “disuniting the nation” and rather than identifying with the nation, “many people have come to see themselves primarily as members of a racial, ethnic, linguistic, religious of gender group” (7113).

    • Michael Badriaki says:

      Thanks Ron. I like the quotes you’ve shared as the add to my thought process. As I read the Gill’s book my mind gravitated to immigration since I trying to understand what a Christocentric approach might look like.

      Good day!

  2. Michael,

    Thanks for taking the time to share here. These are some very important thoughts. I will look into the book you mention by Mark Taylor; it looks extremely interesting and timely.

    I do not understand the United States policies on immigration. To me, it is a no-brainer that those who are oppressed have a place here. Not only does it make common sense to me through the lens of compassion but also through the leans of morality. Frankly, what immigration can do for a nation is to return a sense of values, things like honoring elders, hospitality, generosity, and humility are what broken people can bring. And we so desperately need these things in this crazy, fast-paced, self-centered society in which we find ourselves. God help us to have the wisdom and the commitment to do the right thing rather than the selfish thing.

    Just my thoughts.

  3. Liz Linssen says:

    Hi Michael
    A very interesting blog! Thank you.
    Yes, immigration is such a pertinent and needy subject, as it is here in Europe at the moment too.
    As I think of your post, I’m reminded of Abraham, whom God called to leave his homeland and go to the land God would show him. Abraham was an immigrant, but one who was called to move and settle in a new land. But as the Scriptures also say, he and others were looking forward to their heavenly home even more. We will never truly arrive home until we see our wonderful heavenly Father. Until then, we struggle and look for a place to settle. But as Abraham found, God takes an interest in these areas of our lives and is able to guide us and provide for our temporary needs. Praise Him for that!

  4. Michael…
    You asked (with reference to Taylor ;), “We need new maps to help us navigate territories that will become even more perilous in the future. This work is intended to create the possibility of being different by seeing otherwise.”

    Considering our reading this week and your insights, the place I am always most challenged is with hospitality. Heart hospitality – how we seem to be groomed (is that too strong a word) toward self-protection, self-interest at the extent of others. Scarcity rather than generosity framed me and was the space within which I functioned. Though I truthfully did not know it. That is for me the space that is being transformed — a new map if you will. Such a map seems to be confronting the status quo as lacking.

    Pondering … (and with Bill thanks for the book reference). 🙂

  5. Richard Volzke says:

    Great post! You stated, “for some of the undocumented immigrants the only path is through recruitment into the US military” to gain US legal residency or citizenship. When I was in the Navy, there were a lot of immigrants serving and trying to gain this status. My personal stance is that service should guarantee citizenship to everyone. If you are willing to fight and die for this country, than you should have the right to live here. On the other hand, I also understand the tension when people in the US need jobs, and the government and corporations outsource them instead. Any time that the economy isn’t supporting people appropriately, there will be tension and territorial behavior. I appreciate your post, as it is a good reminder that we need to be sensitive to the opposition that many immigrants face from Americans who act in hurtful ways towards them.

    When we came back from South Africa this year, I was appalled at the hatred and harsh words towards Africans in social media. People were fearful that any Africans would spread the virus here in the U.S. – it didn’t matter if the person was from a country where the virus didn’t even occur. Yet, although we came home from Africa during this time they didn’t express fear towards our family, as we were citizens. In the end the highest threats came from Americans who thought that they were above the virus and failed to take proper safeguards.

  6. Telile Fikru Badecha says:

    Michael, as an immigrant myself I resonate with your thoughts here. You say, “At this critical moment, perhaps change can come from refiguring for our time and place the insights of past writers, poets, artists, philosophers, and theologians.” Also Christian communities can also take part in developing creative strategies to address create space for immigrants.

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